Church of England

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The Church of England is the officially Established religion of England.

Although Christians were present in England since the fourth century or earlier, the national church really began under Augustine of Canterbury, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, in the seventh century. The English Church came under the jurisdiction of Rome until the reign of Henry VIII. The break with Rome came when Henry divorced Catherine of Aragon (having unsuccessully sought a dispensation from Pope Clement VII) and married Anne Boleyn, and was excommunicated by Pope Clement VII in 1533.

Making himself the head of the church not only made it possible for Henry to divorce but also gave him access to the considerable wealth that the Church had amassed. This was however at a time of major religious upheaval in Western Europe called the Reformation and some split was probably inevitable. As it is the Church of England retained a form of worship closer to the Catholic form than other Protestant churches. For example, the church has a hierarchical organization. The head of the Church of England is officially the reigning monarch, but its effective chief cleric remains the Archbishop of Canterbury.

See also History of England, Anglicanism and Anglican Communion.